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Wisconsin football: fall camp practice no. 12

Tight end trouble, a Mertz alert, and offensive line clarity headline Wednesday’s practice

Sophomore offensive lineman Logan Bruss (#60) looks to be the future at right tackle

Fresh from an off day, the Wisconsin football team returned to practice within the confines of Camp Randall Stadium in pads and shorts. Practice was a little lighter than the previous practices open to the media, both in terms of length, but also in contact. The majority of practice was spent working in individual groups, and then a team session that was primarily focused on running plays to work on formations and rotating players in and out.

Injury updates

The the tight end position continues to be hit hard with the injury bug, as Jake Ferguson was held out of practice today with a left leg injury and freshman Hayden Rucci was also out with an arm injury. Ferguson’s injury is reportedly minor, but Rucci had his left arm in a sling. This comes days after junior Luke Benzschawel went down with an apparent leg injury. He was seen at practice today with a cast and crutches.

This led to offensive tackle Cormac Sampson getting reps at tight end during team situations, and he spent time bouncing between the offensive line and the tight ends during individual work. A redshirt freshman, Sampson originally enrolled at Wisconsin as a tight end in 2018, but was switched to the offensive line before spring practice this year. At 6-foot-4, and weighing 280 pounds he seems like a player who could help as a jumbo blocker.

In positive news on the injury front Zack Baun and Garrett Rand were both participating during team time with the first team defense, while Cole Van Lanen and Tyler Biadasz both worked with the first team offensive line at their normal positions during team time.

Position battles

While there was not much to be gleaned from practice in terms of big changes, there were a couple of higher profile position competitions that continue to trend in certain directions.

For the place kicking duties, sophomore Collin Larsh has sustained momentum from Monday’s practice, and once again did not miss from anywhere on the field. He was the first kicker up with punter Conor Allen holding and has been consistent in fall camp from both hashes. At punter, Anthony Lotti was once again the first punter up with the team.

At the cornerback position, Faion Hicks was still out with a right leg injury. Deron Harrell and Caesar Williams were the first two cornerbacks out with the would be “first team” defense in his place. This tandem brings a lot of length with Harrell standing 6-foot-2, and Williams being 6-foot. In the slot, Rachad Wildgoose ran with both the first and second team units, a position that makes a lot of sense given his skill set.

At the quarterback position. Jack Coan still received the bulk of the first team work, but Chase Wolf and Graham Mertz each were given more reps with the player combinations that have been dominating the first team unit. Coan and Wolf seemed to each have quiet days, with nothing really jumping out, while Graham Mertz appeared to have his best day of fall practice yet. He led a nice two minute drill towards the end of practice, and he looked more comfortable with what he was seeing and doing out on the field. This comes just a couple days after Jon Budmayr praised his progress in camp, especially the past couple practices where things appear to have slowed down for him a bit.

Offensive line

From practice on Wednesday, the position that those in attendance may have learned the most about was the offensive line. With Van Lanen and Biadasz both receiving more reps with the first team as they have slowly been working their way back from injury, a possible rotation may be taking place.

While Van Lanen and Biadasz’s positions along the line have been almost assumed, and Logan Bruss played well at right tackle toward the end of last season, the two guard positions were thought to be up in the air heading into camp. After twelve practices those two positions, as well as the the rest of the offensive line rotation, seem to be getting potentially clearer.

At left tackle junior Cole Van Lanen seems to be the starter, with sophomore Tyler Beach, who has practiced with the first team at tackle for most of camp with Van Lanen limited, serving as his backup.

At left guard senior Jason Erdmann, a former walk-on, slid over to the position after spelling Biadasz at center while he was injured. Erdmann has a lot of experience, playing in 40 games all along the line, primarily at guard and center. Behind him, sophomore Kayden Lyles who is still knocking off the rust of playing defensive line last year, looks to be the backup.

At center Biadasz will be the anchor in the middle, with Erdmann being the backup in case of injury.

At right guard sophomore Josh Seltzner has seen his number called for the majority of reps, and he has been a strong run blocker with his ability to move. After him, Michael Furtney has been a guy who has burst back into the rotation after a left hand injury held him out for a few practices.

Lastly at right tackle it looks to be sophomore Logan Bruss, with senior David Moorman being his replacement. Moorman is a player who is intriguing at locations all along the offensive line though, and could be called upon as a swing guy to replace any injuries along the line given his experience.

Logan Bruss

After playing sparingly at the tail end of 2018 in place of David Edwards, who is now a member of the Los Angeles Rams, Bruss seems poised to be the starting right tackle this season. After Wednesday’s practice Bucky’s 5th Quarter had the opportunity to speak with him about the upcoming season.

  • Bruss believes that the “valuable experience in real game situations” he gained from last season will help to “ease the nerves a lot.”
  • Bruss feels he now will “know the level of play you have to have, the speed you have to have, and how quick your thinking has to be.” This should lend him to have an “added confidence boost” out on the field this year.
  • Bruss went on to say that having a leader like Tyler Biadasz in the middle of the line should help the group, saying “he’s the type of guy who brings a lot of vocal leadership to the o-line room, and obviously he has a lot of experience. He is a really smart guy, he knows the game really well.”
  • Bruss acknowledged that he really “wanted to focus in on the details a little bit more” in terms of his work this fall camp, and work towards “consistently, being a dependable guy.”
  • The player who has lined up next to him at right guard with the first team is his roommate Josh Seltzner. The redshirt sophomores became close friends working on the scout team, and have been roommates all throughout college according to Bruss.
  • He believes that “it takes time, it takes live reps to get that chemistry” to grow that bond on the field, but that he and Seltzner are “making good progress on that.” With the ability to work through things together on and off the field, the duo should be a solid right side of the offensive line this season if called upon.